Law in Contemporary Society
Revision of YejinJennyHanFirstPaper


Knowledge of the law is essential to modern life: it enables people to use the legal system, to change their behavior so they don´t break it, and to act with confidence. Providing legal education in secondary schools would render a starting point to promote understanding of the law within the general public.

Why should we teach the law?

People can use the legal system effectively only if they have knowledge of their rights and of the structure of the system generally. For instance, because most Americans are aware of their First Amendment rights, they can resort to the legal system when they feel those freedoms have been violated. Without this understanding, however, they would not be able to seek protection or even to recognize that a violation of rights has occurred.

Though people can consult both law firms and legal resources to learn about the law and their rights, both alternatives are flawed. Because legal advice is expensive, and legal resources confusing and time-consuming, individuals who are unaware of their rights often let them go unenforced. The capacity to use the legal system stems from the awareness of the rights in the first place. Furthermore, the unequal access to professional advice and to basic legal education perpetuates iniquity among the different groups of society: the more you ignore your rights and enforcement possibilities, the less you will be able to avoid the abuse of the more privileged.

Individuals can also avoid unknowingly violating the law by learning it. Good faith ignorance of the law is rarely a valid legal defense, yet knowledge of the law is difficult to come by. If individuals are to be governed by the law they should be provided a degree of basic legal education. As well, if we truly believe that education is the most important tool to overcome social inequalities and to provide equal opportunities, legal education should be a relevant part of our public educational systems.

Knowledge of the law also elevates self-esteem, and moreover, reaffirms our personal dignity. Our society respects law, and people get a sense of self-satisfaction from having knowledge about it. I will never forget the proud and excitement of my former students at Peņalolen, one of the poorest neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile. After only a few weeks of classes, along with learning about their constitutional protections and union labor rights, they reaffirmed their sense of belonging to a society that usually treated them as unwanted outsiders.


Some people may contend that law is so complex and profound that children cannot understand it. Our educational system, however, has proven adept at simplifying complex ideas to suit the level of children´s understanding. Today secondary schools teach various subjects including physics, earth sciences, and astronomy, none of which is a basic subject or less complex than law. Legal scholars could identify concepts most relevant to daily living and create a simple curriculum for middle and high school students by multiple creative ways.

With a well-designed basic curriculum in place, schools could hire law school students as teachers. Appointing law school students would benefit both the school and the law students. For law students, the teaching experience would train them to effectively present legal matters, and the schools would conserve resources by hiring students instead of certified teachers. In the 1970s, William A. Wirt High School in Indiana offered a legal educational program taught by local law school students who received credits for participating in the program. The law students noted after participating in the program that they sharpened their research, communication, and oral skills. Considering the difficulty of hiring professional instructors with legal educational backgrounds to teach, hiring law students would be a good solution.


Ignorance of the law is like darkness without direction. Legal education in secondary schools will not only empower individuals to make effective use of the legal system and to behave in compliance with the law but also offer the compass individuals need in order to navigate through legal challenges. As well, legal education can help to mitigate and reduce the social gaps and injustices by providing the basic guidance for legal enforcement, and perhaps most important, by giving back self esteem and confidence to those more vulnerable.


Webs Webs

r3 - 08 Jan 2010 - 22:32:41 - IanSullivan
This site is powered by the TWiki collaboration platform.
All material on this collaboration platform is the property of the contributing authors.
All material marked as authored by Eben Moglen is available under the license terms CC-BY-SA version 4.
Syndicate this site RSSATOM